Closure could drive workers out of area

SKILLED workers at Lynemouth’s Alcan smelter fear they may have to leave Northumberland to find new employment.

Staff spoke of their concerns at the plant following news that hot metal production will end this month and the whole smelter is likely to close by the end of the year.

Tom Fitzsimmons, of Ashington, who has worked at Alcan for nine years, said: “I’m obviously gutted, but there’s not a lot you can do about it at the end of the day.

“I was hoping that somebody would come in to buy it, but once we lost one of the power lines in an electricity cut we knew that wasn’t going to happen.

“I’m never going to get another job like this anywhere else locally, I think I’ll probably have to work away, but when you look at the job sites there isn’t a great deal out there. At the moment I’m applying for courses and applying for funding, I’m just waiting to hear if I’ve been accepted for it. The company will give me time off to do it, two days a week.

“Part of my job will continue for decommissioning, but I still need to apply to see if I’ll be kept on a bit longer.”

Morpeth man John Holyoak, who has worked at the site for 28 years, said: “For me personally I’m just retiring because I’m 58 next month. I would have liked another couple of years, but I’m okay, I just feel for the rest of the workers, especially the younger lads.

“This has been the biggest employer in the area and when it closes there will be a massive impact.

“I just hope the Government will fetch some jobs into the area.”

And Senior Processing Specialist Phil Thirlwell, 52, of Warkworth, who has worked at Alcan for 34 years, said: “I knew the plant had a limited life of 25 years so it has gone longer than expected.

“We can’t do anything about the closure, we knew it was coming and we have been expecting it.

“I don’t think I will find another job in this area though, I will have to move away because the work is specialist — there aren’t any other aluminium smelters in Northumberland.”

Hazel Krzyzanowski, of Bedlington, will be one of those leaving in May after 13 years in Alcan’s casting plant.

She said: “I’m sad, but it has been a long time coming and I’m well prepared, though there are a lot of people still in shock.There is not a lot I can do about it. They have done the best they can so now I have to go from here and try another sector.

“I have been in redundancy before from Siemens and my husband has been made redundant so I know I just have to get a move on and do something else.”

Scott Dunn, 21, of Ashington, has just finished his apprenticeship at Alcan after four years with the company. Now he is hoping to find a new job at the power station.

“It is not nice to go through this, but obviously what has happened is not really anything we weren’t expecting,” he said.

“When I started my apprenticeship at the time I was expecting it to lead on to quite a long future with the company, but that’s not to be.

“I’m hoping to be part of the team that will stay on until December and of course, working in the power station is an option. It is now a case of seeing just what comes forward.”

GMB official Paul Scott, of North Seaton, has worked in plant room maintenance for 12 years.

He said: “The closure hasn’t come as a shock by any means, it was fully expected, but it will still cause huge problems.

“Most people working here have been here for a while, the least service is about five years. These are skilled jobs and that is going to be a problem because on May 31 we are going to have 323 people looking for the same type of jobs, and to say there aren’t many is an understatement.

“I’m not sure what I will do. First and foremost I have got to make sure all of my members are given the support they have been promised and get the training they have been promised and get what they are entitled to. After that I will let the dust settle for a while and then see what there is for me.

“There are so few jobs of this kind, especially in the local area. The vast majority of workers live no further than five or six miles from the site so they will have to move away to find the same kind of work.”